“Tan linda tu historia,” he said.
I leaned in closer to hear him over the strident, pounding racket. On the dance floor, dozens of young people jumped and shouted, flinging arms in the air.
“What story?” I asked.
“How you gave up everything – family and country – for love. To come here and live at the other end of the world. How were you able to make such a decision?” His words wafted on waves of wine-scented breath.
I doubted he’d remember our conversation tomorrow. How much effort did I want to invest to answer these heady questions? Besides, I was tired after sitting at this wedding banquet for over nine hours, carrying on small talk in Spanish with the other guests at our table. Once the loud dance music started, I caught only words and phrases in the din, smiling and nodding as if in agreement with whatever was being said. Hours of that became torture.
We started off at noon from the city on a bright warm fall day. The wedding ceremony, held in a colonial, adobe chapel in the countryside, began late, Chilean-style. Then we drove to a country house where the several hundred guests spread out across the broad lawns or sought shade under enormous old trees. Black-aproned waiters served champagne, pineapple and basil juice, and canapés until we were summoned to a ballroom-sized white tent where we sat at our assigned table. Lunch was served about 4 o’clock along with copious amounts of fine wine, followed by a buffet dessert table where I made a weak attempt at exercising willpower faced with the variety of temptations.
It was still light outside when the bride and groom danced the traditional waltz. Then the volume of the music increased to indescribable, deafening decibels and, from then on, things went downhill for me. While my husband and his jogging pals gathered like football players in a huddle, wine glasses in hand, I wandered to another table to chat with two women with whom I knew I could carry on a conversation beyond small talk.
It was hours later, when my husband’s friend perched on the chair next to me and wanted to hear ‘my story.’
“When you voted, which country’s elections excited you most?”
I thought for a minute. “The States”
“Do your boys feel more Chilean or American?”
“Chilean. After all, they were born and raised here.”
“Do you regret your decision?”
Oh, boy, he was treading on dangerous territory. I mentioned how hard it had been for my parents, my being their only child, and that, when I married, I thought we’d return to California. “But I have no close family left in the States. My family is here now.”
He went on to sing lengthy praises of my hubby, such a fine person, an example for all, etc., etc. I nodded in agreement, while looking over to the man in question for signs that we might leave soon.
“In fact”, he said, “if I’d been born a woman, I would have married him myself.” And bending over, he planted a warm kiss on my cheek.